Breastfeeding Essentials By: Shari Criso

The best thing about breastfeeding is that two of the most important things you need you already own and are completely free! ;-) However, there are a many products today that can make your experience of breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable and most moms want to know which ones make the biggest difference. Of the hundreds of products on the market for breastfeeding moms, I consider a handful "essential" in helping most new moms get off to the right start with an enjoyable breastfeeding experience.

Here are my recommendations:

Get GOOD Breastfeeding Information
Most expectant moms will prepare for their delivery by taking a childbirth class with their spouse, yet few will take a breastfeeding class assuming that breastfeeding is natural and they will learn after the baby is born. This is a common misconception and can make for a very difficult time. Having all the right products without the knowledge and skills can lead to difficulty, problems, pain and even failure to breastfeed. Taking a really informative class, reading breastfeeding books and watching my "Simply Breastfeeding" DVD program will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your breastfeeding goals! Breastfeeding is simple, but not always easy. Preparing yourself with learning a proven method prior to your baby's arrival will give you the skills, and more importantly, the confidence, you will need to get off to the right start.

Nursing Bras
Comfortable, properly fit nursing bras are essential when you are breastfeeding. Your nursing bras are more than just clothing, they are your equipment! You want to have at least two days worth of bras. They get dirty when you are breastfeeding and you will have to wash them every day. Some people prefer to have a third set to keep in their drawer in case they don't get to the laundry every day  I love the Bravado Designs line of nursing bras, especially their Original Nursing Bra…it is perfect for those early days at home with your newborn. The comfort, support and full exposure of this bra, makes it my first choice for the right after delivery, engorgement, starting to breastfeed and beyond!

Nursing Pads
You will need nursing pads to wear inside your bras, especially in the beginning. The pads will keep your bras cleaner and prevent you from leaking breast milk on to your clothes. I highly recommend getting some, if not all washable cloth pads! Wearing paper 24 hours a day against your skin is not a good idea, so wearing your washable pads as often as you can is your best option. I love the Bamboobies line of nursing pads. They are made of organic cotton and bamboo, which makes them extremely soft and highly absorbent. These pads are chemical free, breathable, discrete and very cute!!!

Nipple Butter/Cream
Get a good nipple cream, preferably one that is organic, toxin and Lanolin-free and infused with organic wound-healing Calendula (evidence based research supports Calendula's safe use for healing cracked nipples) Using organic skin care products is important for your own body and especially important where you are putting it into your baby's mouth! Take your nipple cream to the hospital and use it after every feeding to help prevent soreness.  My absolute favorite nipple cream and the one widely recommended by hospitals, lactation consultants, midwives, nurses and doctors, is Earth Mama Angel Baby's Natural Nipple Butter!
Ingredients include Organic Olive Oil infused with wound-healing Calendula,  Organic Shea butter which helps heal cracked, damaged skin with its renowned skin softening and moisture retaining ability; and organic Cocoa and Mango butters which helps protect, soften and the lubricate skin, acting as a moisture barrier for tender, sensitive nipples.
Natural Nipple Butter! is safe for both mama and baby! There is no need to wash it off the breasts before nursing, and no lanolin means no worry about wool allergies or pesticide contamination!!

Nursing Loungewear / Pajamas
Having something comfortable to wear that you can easily open for nursing will be essential. You want something that gives you full breast exposure. It is difficult to breastfeed a newborn through a small opening or having your shirt tucked under your chin in the baby's face. You will be nursing frequently, especially in the beginning, and having something that is easy to nurse in, lounge in, sleep in and visit with friends and family will be very useful and needed! I highly recommend at least one or two sets of my Nurturewear Loungewear! One to wear while the other is washing  This is loungewear you will want to LIVE IN!! It will make you feel "Put Together", at a time when you need it the most!

Breastfeeding Pillow
Make sure you get a pillow that is specifically designed for breastfeeding! Getting the perfect Latch, especially in the beginning is essential to help prevent soreness of the nipple and maintain a good milk supply (the two most common reasons moms give up on breastfeeding!) One that is sturdy and is going to keep your baby stay up at the breast level will help you to achieve this! Not all nursing pillows are created equal! The very best one on the market is the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow! It's unique and well thought-out design, brings the baby up to the breast, supports your back and helps you achieve the perfect latch with ease! Having a good nursing pillow with you in the hospital is very important as you first learn how to successfully breastfeed your baby.

Nursing Stool
Another essential product that will help make your breastfeeding experience easier is a nursing stool. Bending your knees higher that your hips when you are sitting and breastfeeding will put you in the right position for a proper latch and take the pressure off your lower back. Leaning over to breastfeed will strain your back, neck and shoulders. The stool will keep you sitting up straight. The My Brest Friend Nursing Stool, helps bend your knees at just the right angle, has a non-skid surface, and converts into a child's step stool when you are done breastfeeding with it. This is a great investment, and your back will thank you! 

Breast Pump
This will definitely be one of your most expensive purchases for breastfeeding and many moms wonder if they should wait to see how it goes before getting one. In my experience waiting is a mistake. When you are in the hospital your mature milk is not in yet and you are feeding your baby colostrum (the first milk that is expressed at birth), so your breasts are still pretty soft and that makes latching your baby easier. When you get home, around day three or four, your milk will come in. Your breasts may get engorged (very full) at this time, as your body starts making lots of milk. This can make your breasts go up one or even two cups sizes overnight! The engorgement of your breasts can cause your skin to stretch and your nipple to flatten, making it difficult or sometimes even impossible to latch your baby. You can use your breast pump as a tool to express a small amount of milk, soften your breast, and then re-latch your baby. This can happen at 3 AM and you don't want to be stuck without it!
My #1 recommendation for breast pumps is the Ameda Purely Yours! It is highly effective, easy to use and transport, and extremely easy to clean and keep clean with their patented "hygienic barrier system"!

Editorial by Shari Criso, MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC, author of the "Simply Breastfeeding" DVD, "Breast Pumps & Briefcases" Audio CD, Founder and Host of the My Baby Experts web TV show, and owner of the Birth Boutique in NJ.

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